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‘Special senior group’ making life easier for team’s coaching staff

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There is no shortage of reasons to expect big things from the Franklin College football program this season.

Four, in particular, stand out.

Blended into a roster anchored by 17 battle-tested seniors are four Grizzlies who rank at or near the top among active Division III players in their respective areas of expertise.

Quarterback Jonny West’s 65 career passing touchdowns lead Division III and are tied for ninth nationally among active players in all NCAA divisions

Split end Kyle Linville’s 39 touchdown catches and 3,317 career receiving yards put him first in both categories among all active Division III players.

Cornerback Zack Corpe’s 16 career interceptions lead Division III, and he is tied for third among all NCAA divisions.

The Elkhart Memorial High School product’s four picks for touchdowns tie for first in Division III and for the No. 2 spot overall among active players.

Shelbyville native Michael Parks has become one of the nation’s elite punters with his 41.01-yard average, tops among active Division III players and 13th among all NCAA divisions.

“It’s a very special senior group we have this season. It does allow me to sleep better at night knowing we have players like this,” said Franklin College coach Mike Leonard, whose squads from 2010-12 posted an overall record of 28-7 while going a spotless 24-0 against Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference competition. “Early last year, we were like, ‘Wow, we’re going to be pretty talented if everyone stays the same.’”

Parks detected as far back as his freshman season his class had the makings of something special.

“First of all, the coaches do a phenomenal job of recruiting guys who can contribute right away,” Parks said. “We have a lot of good leaders in this group, and that’s real big when you have a successful program like ours.”

West agreed.

“I knew after that first training camp we had a good class. We’ve worked really hard over the last four years, and you can see the improvement,” said West, who takes pride in being one of the Grizzlies’ captains for this season along with Linville, Corpe, running back Kyle Holzbog and defensive linemen Dominique Boyd and Colin Gallagher.

“Being a captain is special, but it’s also a responsibility,” West said. “You have to do the right things on and off the field. For me, (leadership) comes easier. I lost my father (to leukemia) when I was 11, so I learned responsibility at a young age.”

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